You’ve probably felt it. Advertising and measurement has changed. And you’re uneasy. You sense that the old school ideas centered on the impact of media exposure—the one that led us to ask: “what is our advertising doing to people?”—doesn’t really describe how advertising works today.
But many of us—and probably you, too—realize that we need an up to date model to understand how advertising works in today’s digital, social, mobile world. A world where people act, transact, speak, and feel. One where the data we collect captures their humanity and life in the world. And one that asks a different question now: “What are people doing with our advertising, and with what effect?”
5 Different Ways to Think About Advertising
I asked experts contributing to The Digital Metrics Field Guide to share their thoughts about how we should be thinking about advertising today. They boil down to five:
#1. Digital Currencies May Not Be Needed After All
Merkle CRO Yaakov KImelfeld presented a challenge: Do we need a currency for digital media? His provocative answer—“it’s not clear that we do.” Well-designed online campaigns “thrive in the absence of a currency.” Kimelfeld questions the need for comparable cross-media metrics. While their familiarity comforts us and are simple to understand, they chain us and restrain us from exploiting “online’s unique capabilities for brand building and customer experience.” Focusing on reach and frequency forces us to serve ads based on demographics, not on relevant audience characteristics such as interactions with the ad, sharing, influence, and other uniquely online behaviors. Kimelfeld urges us “to start facing forward.”
#2. We Need to Shift from Models Of Audience Delivery to Models of Advertising Effectiveness
Graeme Hutton of media agency UM advises the need to develop an advertising model for our 21st century, not the 19th—when straight line Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) and purchase funnel models appeared on the scene. Hutton argues that we should shift from models of audience delivery—which we still need to measure—to models of advertising effectiveness grounded in contemporary science and empirically supported. Hutton sees progress coming from research areas like neuroscience and analyzing online social behavior. Armed with a contemporary model of advertising rooted in effectiveness, advertisers and agencies should be better able to explain why their advertising will work and how it will work, leading to improved planning and purchasing that reduces uncertainty and improves business results.
#3. Include The Consumer’s Context to Understand Effectiveness
Advertising’s effectiveness model should include context. Kevin Moeller, formerly of Media Behavior Institute but now at UM, contends that effective targeting in today’s complex media system depends on deep insight into the roles consumers are playing, the situations they are in, and the emotions they are experiencing at the moment that messages reach them. Reaching audiences when they are most receptive to the message often improves the response to advertising, resulting in enhanced advertising ROI and increased value to advertisers.
#4. Evaluate Advertising Performance on Consumer Actions
Niels Schillewaert and Annelies Verhaegheof InSites Consulting believe that the “key performance metrics we need to add to our arsenal for measuring communication effectiveness should really be centered on consumers’ online and offline brand-related actions (COBRAs).” Marketers need to know what people do for their brands after exposure to marketing initiatives for products, services, or experiences. Conversation, sharing, reviewing, and buying are some of the brand-related actions people take. Niels and Annelies found that TV ad effectiveness was related to an ad’s ability to stimulate conversation among viewers.
That finding just received substantial support. Keller-Fay’s Brad Fay recapped a very rigorous WOMMA study analyzed by Analytic Partners. It concluded that “The single most important factor in the success of an advertisement is this: Does it stimulate consumer conversation and sharing? Nothing else matters as much.” Consumer conversations, the study found, “actually increase the sales impact of advertising by 15% and account for an average 13% of consumer sales overall.”
#5. Develop Predictive Indicators for the Outcomes of Actions
MotiveQuest’s David Rabjohns takes consumer actions further. He studied many types of consumer actions, one of which was advocacy: the number of unique people strongly recommending and promoting a brand because they want to. With Northwestern University, his firm modeled the relationship of advocacy to sales—one of the “gold standard” measures of return on investment. Rabjohns and his team discovered correlations that make advocacy a leading indicator for next-month sales. Correlation is not causation of course, but the level of advocacy tells us that something is going on in the real world, as well as in online conversations, that is boosting sales or forcing them to plummet.
These 5 Ways Lead to The Emergence of Humanistic Advertising
A cynic might look at these ideas and say we’ve heard them before. They could be dismissed as nothing more than overused trade terms: engagement, advocacy, and effectiveness. But that sorely misses the point. Too many digitally-oriented campaigns narrowly focus on getting “more” with the belief that if brands can get more consumers to engage, advocate, and act, then marketing success will follow. So they do things that get those numbers up.
But when you consider these ideas, you soon realize a humanistic impulse underlies all of them. They aim to understand people as people living their lives. They see brand marketing and advertising as one means to help people live their lives more as each person would like, and less as the brand wants them to. Now we can relax a bit. We have a newer way to think about advertising.
This more humanistic model will grow in importance over time as we become more comfortable with “humetrics,” or understanding people through measurement, and as more brands shift from a “do to” to a “do with” mindset. The media exposure model will be around for media buying and selling reasons—it’s the way that business is done, but we can expect that its grip on strategy will weaken.
6 Actions You Can Take Towards Humanistic Advertising
There are a number of things we can do for our brands—and ourselves—to help them succeed in this humanistic era:
Challenge accepted strategy. How can a “do-to” strategy transform into a “do-with” strategy?
Identify and study brands that have adopted a humanistic approach and talk them over with your colleagues. These ideas need to be socialized for them take hold . Apple is one of the poster children for this. Find others.
Experiment. Test out old model vs. new model thinking when you can. See which works better, when, and why.
Understand people better. Acquire penetrating insights into who they are, what they value, and what they would like to achieve or attain. Discover the ideas that make a difference to a person and to the business.
Learn about social processes. Most brands still treat social, mobile, and digital as they do mass media.These media are not simply delivery channels, they are webs of connected people and enablers of social interaction and interpersonal communication. Large knowledgebases exist in the social sciences about why people share, engage, or advocate and what results from that at the individual, group, and community levels. Leverage that.
Think of your customers as people living lives in which your brand is a part that contributes to their happiness. Figure out what your brand should do-with them.
Link of the Week
The Google Trends Data Goldmine by Ben Spiegel explains Google Trends and its many uses. I’ve been a fan of Google Trends for years and include it into the hands-on sections in my workshops on social listening. This post is a Link of the Week because the data provides a window into the humetrics of people’s interests and intentions,.
To write The Digital Metrics Field Guide I had to choose which metrics to include from an ever-expanding supply. Sometimes I wondered if there was a metrics nursery somewhere, like the star nursery in 30 Doradus.
So Many Metrics. Why?
When working on the Facebook metrics, I struggled with this question: Why were there so many measures concerned with engagement, interaction and sharing? Clicks. Social Clicks. Consumptions. Likes. Friends. Fans. Etc. Were they all needed? Why?
This stumped me for close to a month until the curtain drew back: The metrics Facebook reported appeared to reflect their assumptions about how social worked on their network, the features and functions they built into their platform, and their business model for selling advertising. I’m using Facebook as an example: the same was true for other social networks, sites, and engines.
Metrics Measure a Platform’s Business Model: The Endometrics Problem
I checked this notion out with Gilles Santini, a mathematician who, among his degrees, has a Masters in the philosophy of statistics and who created many of the industry-standard media measurement models. “Stephen,” he said, “these are ‘endometrics,’ Measures that come from within the system being measured. They measure the performance of a system in its own terms.” Bob Woodard, a former head of global insights for Campbell’s and erstwhile ARF colleague put it more bluntly: “Vendors measure what they want to sell you.” Aha!
A social network, site or engine that talks up its philosophy of “how advertising works on their platform” and is then joined by a chorus of agencies, consultants, or gurus, leads brands to work hard to optimize one or more of the metrics available from that platform to improve their chances for communications success on that platform. It made “perfect sense” to design Facebook campaigns to get as many clicks, likes, or fans as possible.
Business Models Change as Business Changes
Back in 2012 Facebook ran tests with Datalogix matching a Facebooker’s ad exposure on Facebook with their purchase data for 50 advertised brands. They found that 99% of the documented sales were from people who saw ads but did not interact with them. Brand advertising, Facebook VP Brad Smallwood announced, worked just like mass media advertising. Clicks, Smallwood noted, seemed applicable in some cases, such as in direct response campaigns, but it was challenging to understand their offline sales impacts .
Facebook built upon this finding over time and shifted its philosophy, business model, and marketing towards targeting, impressions, reach maximization, and frequency optimization, and away from the old engagement model. Just last month Facebook rolled out LIFT, a tool for measuring online or offline conversions that reinforces their current model.
Metrics That Matter Change When Business Models Change
The point is that philosophies and business models furnished by social networks, sites and engines change over time. This is not a bad thing and is to be expected: after all they are growing and evolving, constantly learning about their platforms and users, figuring out what works, adjusting their endometrics, and revising their sales pitches accordingly.
5 Steps to Overcome the Endometrics Problem and Improve Your Digital Measurement
Platforms adopting new business models make the case for change. What may be best for a platform interests, however, may or may not be best for a brand’s interests. Why? Each is pursuing its own business strategy. Here are 5 steps that help align your communications goals and measurement with the platforms used.
Develop a crystal clear view of the philosophy and business model for any network, site or engine you are considering. Ask yourself these questions: How do they make their money? How do their metrics help them sell? Which of those metrics might be helpful to my brand given our objectives?
Come to your own understanding of the ways a platform or combination of platforms should work for your brands. Most media plans combine networks, sites, and engines.
Develop and agree upon a measurement framework for your communications goals, strategy, and tactics.
Select and fit relevant vendor metrics to your framework.
Periodically monitor and evaluate campaign performance. Delete, add, swap, and optimize metrics as results indicate.
These steps will help you select metrics that measure impact of your communications, tell your story to business partners, and provide the guidance you need to reach your goals. Don’t forget to revisit and reevaluate the platform’s business model to keep abreast of changes and modify your strategy and metrics as necessary.
Link of the Week: Facebook’s EdgeRank – List of Factors and Changes
Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm undergoes periodic revisions to decide which items to place in users’ newsfeeds, and thus affects a brand’s potential reach. Buffer’s Kevan Lee maintains a very helpful list of algorithm factors and changes.
Announcing Field Guide Fridays – a companion site for The Digital Metrics Field Guideproviding updates, links, points of view, debates, practices, tutorials, and interviews. The book is available for pre-order.
Field Guide Fridays address marketing, media, and advertising practitioners. People who use metrics and measurement in support of their brand-building work, but who are not uber-analysts or statisticians. Experts will find Field Guide Fridays a helpful supplemental source for the technically minded.
Expect selectivity. Plenty of sites cover the torrent of metrics news and company announcements, many exceptionally. I’ll stay with my strengths: synthesis, sense-making, strategy, practicality, and simplicity. My first topical post appears next week, and every two weeks afterwards to start.
Naturally I want this series to reflect your interests, concerns, questions, and to offer what you’d like to see: contact me with your ideas and suggestions whenever you like. With your input Field Guide Fridays should become a valuable resource that helps you and your brands use metrics in ways that contribute to their growth and yours.
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